Ramadan inspires volunteers to assist displaced in Baghdad

By Khalid al-Taie

Ramzi al-Azzawi distributes aid donated by different people to displaced families in Baghdad's al-Jamia neighbourhood. [Photo courtesy of Ramzi al-Azzawi]

Ramzi al-Azzawi distributes aid donated by different people to displaced families in Baghdad's al-Jamia neighbourhood. [Photo courtesy of Ramzi al-Azzawi]

During the holy month of Ramadan, Iraqis have been extending a helping hand to families living in displacement camps by providing them with food and other forms of support, such as air conditioning units.

In west Baghdad's al-Jamia neighbourhood, food aid and relief supplies arrive every day, provided as part of voluntary initiatives by local residents.

The camp hosts 100 families who are mostly displaced from Mosul and the areas of al-Baaj and Zammar and Anbar province, camp official Ramzi al-Azzawi told Diyaruna.

Roughly half the families arrived at the camp at the beginning of the year after long and arduous journeys, during which they moved from one area to another before settling down in Baghdad, he said.

Since the camp opened in April 2015, residents have been receiving "substantial support" from the people of Baghdad and the other provinces, al-Azzawi said.

Most aid provided by private citizens

"Most of the aid reaching our camp comes from citizens," al-Azzawi said. "People give the best items they have, and when they hear of new arrivals of internally displaced persons (IDPs), they immediately rush to their rescue."

"During public and religious occasions, the volume of the aid is doubled, embodying our national solidarity at its fullest," he said.

The camp’s kitchen provides hot meals every day, al-Azzawi said, "and is currently giving mass breakfast meals for the month of Ramadan".

"Citizens provide us with food supplies every day and we cook food for the displaced families," he said.

"The people of the southern provinces spare nothing in helping their displaced brothers from provinces in the north and west of the country," he said.

At the onset of summer, al-Azzawi said he put out a call via local television stations asking people to supply camp residents with cooling devices so they could withstand the heat and alleviate the burden of fasting.

"It was only a matter of days until a man from the city of Najaf called me to provide the camp with 40 air-conditioners," he added.

The camp also has received stocks of fuel from other donors to operate power generators and provide energy continuously throughout Ramadan.

Support transcends sect

The population gives aid to displaced families at all times of the year, said 50-year-old Hameed Hammad, a displaced Anbar resident who has been living with his family in al-Jamia camp for about two years.

"But in Ramadan the support increases, as this is the month of generosity, charity, and compassion of all citizens towards each other, regardless of their many various religions, sects and ethnicities," he told Diyaruna.

When he and his family arrived at the camp, they had been on a difficult journey, Hammad said, adding that "since we arrived, helping hands have been extended to us from all directions".

"This comradery has significantly alleviated our suffering."

"We are Sunnis and we receive most in-kind and food donations from Shia areas such as Sadr City and the provinces of Najaf and Karbala," he said. "These initiatives show our unity and our love for each other."

Support extends to non-Muslim families

Popular support also extends to non-Muslim families, with Baghdad families extending their charitable giving to displaced Christians, said the Rev. Martin Harmaz Daoud, director of the Virgin Mary camp in Zayouna.

"People keep on coming here from all around the capital to ask how the camp’s residents are doing and give them food, clothing and moral support," he told Diyaruna.

"In Ramadan, the month of Muharram, and our Muslim brothers’ religious celebrations, the pace of visits and aid picks up," he said, noting that 142 Christian families, mostly displaced from the Ninawa plain, live in the camp.

"We Iraqis are one people and we all help each other," said 45-year-old Hassan Mohammed of al-Doura, who has helped to distribute food aid to displaced families in his area.

"Helping our displaced people is our national duty," he told Diyaruna. "Ramadan brings us closer to them and gives us greater strength to lend them a helping, giving hand."

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